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Bepi Pezzulli
International counsel & foreign policy adviser

Drama 101: Gay’s exit, a tragicomedy in Ivy League

In a plot twist that even William Shakespeare might find a tad melodramatic, Harvard University’s leading lady, Claudine Gay, has decided to exit stage left. The revelation, first reported by the The Harvard Crimson, a student newspaper, brings an end to a drama-packed storyline filled with antisemitism, academic heists, and a political showdown that would make the Bard himself reach for some popcorn.

The Ivy League soap opera unfolded on December 5, 2023, during a congressional spectacle starring Claudine Gay of Harvard, M. Elizabeth (“Liz”) Magill of the University of Pennsylvania, and Sally A. Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was a Republican-led House Committee on Education and the Workforce extravaganza, where the three university bigwigs danced around questions like politicians at a masquerade ball. The highlight? When asked if students should be penalized for advocating the wholesale annihilation of the Jewish community, the trio seemed to channel their inner surreal soliloquies.

The comedy of errors continued as Republican Representative Elise M. Stefanik from New York questioned the three about students cheering for the intifada, a sort of academic hootenanny involving armed resistance and genocidal aspirations. Stefanik, incredulous, asked if calling for genocide violated Penn University’s code of conduct. Liz Magill, one of the leading ladies, suggested that if verbal jabs turned into conduct, it might be considered a tad naughty. Stefanik, undeterred, quizzed further, confirming that shouting “genocide” was not, in itself, an abuse according to Magill. The plot thickened as Magill added a fantastical twist, claiming, “It depends on the context, Representative.” Stefanik, like a frustrated Shakespearean protagonist, retorted, “Is this your testimony today? Invoking the genocide of Jews depends on the context?” Et tu, Magill?

Even 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was compelled into a little tongue-wagging. White House spokesperson Andrew Bates was left to play the role of the exasperated chorus, proclaiming, “It’s incredible that we have to reiterate that any call for genocide is monstrous and antithetical to everything we stand for as a nation.”

Enter Claudine Gay, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who was set to break records but ended up breaking headlines instead. She stepped into Harvard’s limelight after Lawrence H. (“Larry”) Summers’ controversial exit, and as fate would have it, controversy seemed to follow her like a persistent shadow. Vivek Ramaswamy, a contender for the Republican nomination, spilled the beans on the secret sauce behind Gay’s appointment, revealing a preordained decision that the next president had to be a woman. A merit-based approach? Now, that’s a radical idea according to Ramaswamy, but who needs merit when you can have a politically correct coronation?

And let’s not forget the plagiarism subplot! A whopping 40 accusations of academic thievery were lobbed at Gay, ranging from missing quotation marks to outright grand theft paragraph. In a twist worthy of a comedy duo, she allegedly even pinched a thanks and acknowledgment note. Cue laughter from the academic peanut gallery, led by Professor Riccardo Puglisi, who twitted, “Plagiarizing a thank you note reaches metaphysical levels.”

In a finale that would make even Shakespeare smirk, Gay’s reign at Harvard goes down in history as the briefest in its 388-year-old saga. The curtain falls, the applause is sparse, and the Ivy League soap opera continues with a new leading lady waiting in the wings.

To be continued…”

About the Author
Giuseppe Levi Pezzulli ("Bepi") is a Solicitor specialised in International financial law and a foreign policy scholar. His research interest is economic statecraft. In 2018, he published "An alternative view of Brexit" (Milano Finanza Books), which investigates the economic and geopolitical implications of Brexit. In 2023, "Brave bucks" (Armando Publishing House), which highlights the role of private capital in the industrial policy mix. Formerly an Editor-in-Chief of La Voce Repubblicana; is a columnist for the Italian daily financial newspaper Milano Finanza; a pundit for the financial TV channel CNBC; and a Middle East analyst for Longitude magazine. He received degrees at Luiss Guido Carli in Rome (LLB), New York University (LLM), and Columbia University (JD).
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